WEST VILLAGES — Venice MainStreet and the Atlanta Braves held a Mardi Gras theme party on Saturday to welcome back the team to the area as spring training gears up.

Pitchers and catchers reported to work Wednesday.

Hundreds of area residents came out Saturday for the event, which featured Braves Manager Brian Snitker and the Grammy-award winning Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans.

The night included live music and contests.

North Port will do its part to welcome the Atlanta Braves from 1-4 p.m. Saturday with the help of two Braves alumni, Mike Bielecki and Michael Tucker.

The BIG Rally is designed to celebrate the first full spring training season in North Port. It’s at the City Center Front Green, 4970 City Hall Blvd.

North Port resident and “America’s Got Talent” alum Emanne Beasha will begin the event with a performance of the national anthem.

“We are now a baseball city and we’re ready for the spotlight to shine on North Port in the national media coverage,” North Port City Manager Peter Lear said.

A study conducted in 2017 by Stantec, estimated the Atlanta Braves spring training in North Port will generate more than $1.7 billion in economic impact during the 30-year contract.

Bielecki and Tucker will be at the Braves tent signing autographs from 1 to 3 p.m.

Bielecki was a right-handed pitcher for the Braves who had a 15-year career in Major League Baseball. He pitched against the Yankees in the 1996 World Series.

The Doxie Dash, a race for dachshunds, will begin at 2:45 p.m. The races will be split into three age divisions: Little Links (under 2 years), Bratwurst (2 to 8 years old), and Senior Schnitzels (9 years and above).

Food and beverage vendors will be on site for guests to purchase items. The event includes free admission and parking, though parking is limited around the City Center. A shuttle will be running from Heron Creek Middle School to the event from 12:30-4:30 p.m.

For more information visit CityofNorthPort.com/TheBigRally.

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